Turning biological cells to stone aids cancer research

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Transmuting living cells into more permanent materials may sound like alchemy, but a new silica-based method has been developed to make this possible. Creating more permanent replicas of cell that can endure the rigors of testing and resist decay could greatly aid researchers exploring cancer treatments, and aid in other fields, such as cell evolution research.

Bryan Kaehr, of the Department of Energy's (DOE) Sandia National Laboratories, and then-University of New Mexico (UNM) postdoctoral student Jason Townson discovered that a slurry of silica molecules, keep at a low pH level, could be applied as a coating to surfaces. Experimentation in an effort to "coat" biological cell structures yielded a surprising result: not only did the silica mix coat the cell, but the material seemed to penetrate the cells to coat the inside as well. Review under an electron microscope revealed silica duplicates of the original cells, down to the nano-level structures. Experiments with whole organs, such as a liver submerged in a silica solution, yielded similar results—a duplicated organ. This development opens up many research possibilities. 

Turning biological cells to stone aids cancer research
Turning biological cells to stone aids cancer research
Near-perfect replications of human and animal cells enables improved study of certain cancers and stem cells, as well as the creation of complex durable objects without machinery, scientists report. A new technique to transmute living cells into more permanent materials that defy decay and can ...
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